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Sunday, May 06, 2007

Strong Defense Powers Pistons to 95-69 Game One Win Over Bulls

Detroit jumped on Chicago early and then blew the game open with three straight three pointers in the fourth quarter, cruising to a 95-69 victory in game one of the Eastern Conference semifinals. Pick a statistical category and Detroit controlled it, from rebounds (46-38) to field goal percentage (.439 to .329) to turnovers (committing 15, forcing 21). Chauncey Billups set the tone in the first quarter, torching Ben Gordon for 12 points as Detroit took a 29-23 lead. Billups and Richard Hamilton each finished with 20 points. Luol Deng led Chicago with 18 points and eight rebounds. Ben Wallace had nine points on 4-5 shooting and tied Deng with eight rebounds and Kirk Hinrich scored 15 points on 6-7 shooting and dished out six assists but the Bulls could not overcome horrendous 3-30 shooting from their bench players (no, that is not a typo).

Chicago battled uphill for most of the first half, falling behind by as many as 16 points, but the Bulls were only down 10 at halftime. They got to within 60-52 in the first two minutes of the third quarter but then P.J. Brown picked up his third and fourth fouls and had to go to the bench. His replacement, rookie Tyrus Thomas, seemed more than a little out of his depth. Rasheed Wallace immediately scored on him in the post and Detroit pulled away to a 70-57 lead by the end of the third quarter.

Any thought that the Bulls might make a fourth quarter run was quickly ended when Rasheed Wallace, Richard Hamilton and Tayshaun Prince each made a three pointer within a 1:21 stretch. That made the score 79-57 and turned the rest of the game into, as Marv Albert likes to say, "extensive garbage time."

Years ago, Danny Ainge noted that after you win a playoff game by blowing someone out you don't get to start the next game with a 20 point lead. Last year, Detroit cruised to two easy home wins against Cleveland and then fell down 3-2 before eventually prevailing in the seventh game. In game one of the 1985 NBA Finals, Boston beat the L.A. Lakers 148-114. The Lakers won the next game and won the series in six games. So, Detroit's margin of victory in game one is irrelevant; the important issue is whether or not Chicago can correct the mistakes that led to the loss. The Bulls stayed in contact for three quarters before Detroit's barrage of three pointers. Prior to that, a couple things stood out: (1) The Bulls looked jittery and a lot of their turnovers were, in tennis terms, unforced errors. Yes, Detroit played good defense but the Bulls were fumbling the ball in the open court and throwing wild, low percentage passes; (2) the Bulls were able to get into the paint almost at will, mostly by dribble penetration, but they missed a lot of layups or turned the ball over. Just by controlling the ball better and converting opportunities in the paint the Bulls could have made the score a lot closer. Starting in game two, look for the Bulls to be much more effective in exploiting scoring opportunities in the paint; if Detroit reacts to take that away, then look for the Bulls to start making open jump shots, like they did versus Miami. The Pistons seemed really determined to take away the jump shot from Chicago, even at the cost of leaving open driving lanes.

The bigger concern for the Bulls is how to deal with Billups and Hamilton. Neither player really hurt the Bulls during the regular season but both caused problems in game one and they could have scored more than 20 points apiece if Detroit had needed them to do so. The Bulls may have to change around some of their defensive schemes to make sure that Billups cannot just abuse Gordon one on one. On the other hand, if the Bulls clean up their ballhandling and avoid another 3-30 shooting effort from their bench then they probably can live with the defensive performance that they had; after all, Detroit shot just .439 for the game.

posted by David Friedman @ 2:00 AM



At Sunday, May 06, 2007 11:30:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Chicago will do well to win two game in this series. Lost in the media's desire to make the most of opening night jitters is a more basic fact: the dozing Pistons caught a fragrant whiff of Finals and woke up. Now the Bulls are on the barbie.

At Sunday, May 06, 2007 2:49:00 PM, Blogger marcel said...

this series may not go 6 if the bulls dont play better i told you the pistons was going to the finals david you didnt belive me im an expert i picked cleaveland in 4 detroit in 4 chi in 4 and phoenix in 4 lakers got one game this is the pistons series though.

At Monday, May 07, 2007 5:17:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Obviously, the Bulls will lose if they don't play better--that is why I explained in this post exactly what they can do to get a win in game two and take homecourt advantage. It takes four games to win a series, not one. I also correctly picked all of the series that you listed.

At Monday, May 07, 2007 10:08:00 PM, Blogger marcel said...

you picked the series i picked the games is what i meant to say m an expert pistons in 6 this bulls team is the 89 bulls team

At Monday, May 07, 2007 11:00:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

David, you should just stop picking against the Pistons. This blind spot of yours is ... well, people are starting to talk.

At Tuesday, May 08, 2007 2:01:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...


The Pistons have been declining steadily since winning the 2004 title--each subsequent year they have been eliminated a round earlier. Nevertheless, if you will go back and check, I have actually picked the Pistons to win each series that they have played going all the way back to 2005. I was wrong about the 2005 NBA Finals and about last year's Eastern Conference Finals but correct in picking them to win the first two rounds in 2005, the first two rounds in 2006 and the first round this year. So I'm not sure what blind spot you are talking about. Have you actually read what I've written about Detroit? I may be wrong about this particular series but this is the first time that I have picked against Detroit in the playoffs since I began posting predictions online.


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